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A February 2023 report published by researcher Joanne Kim outlines the results of a two-month study of how data brokers sell sensitive data mental health data collected from mHealth mental health apps. The paper offers an eye-opening look into many privacy abuses that can be perpetuated by well-meaning practitioners who select and encourage their clients to use apps without being appropriately informed. This study is of particular interest when in the last two months alone,  the industry has been rocked by reports of scrutiny faced by several of the largest online mental health employers for sharing sensitive mental health patient data for profit. These companies include BetterHelp, Cerebral, GoodRX, Monument, and Workit Health. Dozens of other companies have been exposed by researchers who reported the possible sharing of sensitive patient data with large marketing companies. Those advertising companies include Google, Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok, and many more, which are immune to HIPAA violations because they are not covered entities.

Kim Study: Sharing of Sensitive Mental Health Information via mHealth Apps

The Kim study exposes another potentially critical gap in HIPAA and other laws, which allow mHealth app companies to sell sensitive client and patient information with data brokers, some of whom openly advertise that they are willing and able to sell Americans’ highly sensitive mental health information. The research paper is published on the Duke University website. It is summarized below to provide a brief outline of the issue and alert practitioners who wish to prevent the potential exploitation of their clients and patients.

The Mental Health Policy Gap Excavated by Data Brokers

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From Telebehavioral Health Institute – Read More


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